Hemsby church row: Graveyard volunteer ‘chops down’ Mr Graves’ hedge

NIGEL Graves is having trouble with graves since an elderly churchyard volunteer allegedly hacked down his 10ft high garden hedge.

The Hemsby youth worker, whose garden adjoins the graveyard of St Mary's church, says he can now see mourners laying flowers by headstones as he hosts barbecues and plays frisbee in his garden.

Mr Graves, 54, says he had grown the hedge to give the family some privacy, but church volunteers say its roots were interfering with nearby headstones so they needed to take action.

He says all his efforts to save the hedge led to dead ends, and he even called the police in a bid to resolve the spat with St Mary's Church.

'The first we knew of it we saw the man hacking away at the bottom of the garden,' said Mr Graves. 'We explained he was affecting our side of the property, but he just disregarded it.

'The police said he's breaking the law, but they haven't been able to speak to this man. We're just so frustrated.

'It was a very large tall and wide hedge - about 6ft wide and 10ft tall - and he chopped it all down.'

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The hedge in question is understood to have sat on the boundary line, with 3ft of width in the Graves' garden and 3ft in the graveyard.

Memorial headstones line the wall on the graveyard side.

Mr Graves says he tried to reason with the volunteer - saying there were sparrows nesting in the hedge, and he should not be cutting down plants on his side of the church wall - but claims he was ignored.

Churchwarden Maureen Powles, 71, explained she had got her brother-in-law Geoff Smith, 74, to carry out the work.

'It's a wall that belongs to the church,' she said. 'There was ivy on it damaging the wall and there were tree stumps growing in the actual wall and we were so concerned about the headstones - they were pushing them forward.

'All he did was take the ivy from the wall. He didn't go in his property.

'He did get quite a lot of abuse from this man but he kept his cool and wasn't nasty. I don't think we've done anything wrong.'

Mr Smith confirmed he had filled a skip with greenery, but said adamantly: 'There was no hedge. It's a lovely stone wall but all this ivy was destroying it and covering the graves so we cleaned it up. It upset the people on the other side of the wall - what can I say?'

Mr Graves said he is considering seeking compensation.

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